What’s more frightening than ghosts? Static electricity

Girl with hair standing on end because of static electricity while touching a vandergraf generator. science, electricity, static, vandergraf generator, hair, girl, surprise, excitement, fear, funWhen I was a kid I had a book called Mysteries of the Unexplained that contained AMAZING BUT TRUE! stories aimed at stirring the imagination, eliciting a sense of wonder and prolonging the bed-wetting experience by at least three years. I’d huddle beneath the covers with my flashlight and read about strange psychic phenomena documented by real scientists, physicists, private investigators and the occasional freaked-out paranormal expert who, at the end of the story, usually abandoned his profession to become a plumber:

Though the book was mostly about ghosts, aliens, strange disappearances and creepy folklore (…so stand alone in the dark, if you dare. Hold a mirror and repeat the words “Sassafras Sally” And prepare to be slapped by a pair of wet tea bags), it was spontaneous human combustion that really got to me. I think it’s because, in my mind, ghosts, aliens, strange disappearance and folklore could all be avoided by exercising a little caution.

Spot an alien spaceship? Run.

Worried about Sassafras Sally? Introduce her to Chi tea.

Concerned about taking a cruise through the Bermuda Triangle?

Go to Disneyland and settle for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” instead.

But burst into flames in the middle of Mrs. Frump’s sixth-grade classroom, and chances are you’d be reduced to a pair of smoking sneakers long before you could acquire a hall pass and make it to a water source.  Continue reading

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Ten years ago, love overlooked the fact I drove a mini van

imageTen years ago tonight, I had my first date.

I was 40.

It’s not that I hadn’t been on other dates in my life. It’s just that, from the very first moment we took each other’s hands, none of the others seemed to matter anymore — Because nothing compared to this one.

The best one.

The last one I’ll ever want.

Both of us were recently divorced after long, unhappy marriages. We both had two children at home. And both of us had joined a dating website a month earlier within a few days of each other. Fate, it seemed, had already set things into motion.

10 years and one pair of wedding rings later, I’m still thanking fate each and every day.

But especially for this night, when the amazing woman I now call my wife was able to overlook the fact that her date drove a mini van.

Here’s how it all started…

[Insert gauzy time-travel sequence and harp music here]

Continue reading

Don’t let disappointment keep you from voting

imageAfter becoming editor here at Siuslaw News in September, I began writing an Opinion piece a few times a month called “From the Editor’s Desk.” It had been several years since our newspaper had a regular opinion piece written by its editor. Being that most of our readers knew me only as a humor columnist, I felt it was an opportunity to show a different side and, hopefully, connect with the community in a different way.

I also saw it as a way to build an ongoing dialogue with our readers so that they don’t just read the newspaper, but feel like they are a part of it. The response has been terrific and, over the last several weeks, our Opinion page has become a lively, respectful exchange of viewpoints and insights.

If only I could say the same about this year’s election.  Continue reading

Reading my book is like having that first talk about sex

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Canadian humorist and screenwriter Randall Willis reacts to my “Pearls of Writing Wisdom.” Possibly after eating too much poutine…

When I saw the notification on Twitter that Randall Willis had posted a review of my new book, it was the first time in a while that I’d felt nervous about my writing. Not so much because he’s Canadian. Or because he’s a hilarious, award-winning writer and screenwriter. And not even because he knows a lot of guys who play professional hockey and carries a hockey stick in the trunk of his car “just for emergencies.”

Unlike my first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, which was a collection of newspaper columns I’d published over the last 16 years, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist is more personal because it’s written for writers. Seeing my book in the hands of other writers I know and admire made me nervous in the same way I’d imagine it must feel to host The Oscars; standing in front of an audience of talented peers and hoping to be worthy of their time and attention. Except in this case there’s not even an open bar to loosen things up first.

At least I don’t have Stephen King staring me down from the audience.  Continue reading

Samsung offering free fire extinguisher with each cell phone purchase!

imageTechnology is great.

Except, of course, when it explodes in your pants. I’ve never really liked cell phones to begin with, and now that they’ve started self-detonating, I like them even less.

Curgently, Samsung is investigating why its Galaxy Note 7 phones are bursting into flames — a feature Samsung officials say wasn’t supposed to become available until next year.

As you might expect, cell phone sales have dipped slightly as a result of these incidents. That’s because luxuries like instant messaging, Internet access and live video feeds don’t mean much if your cell phone suddenly ignites into flames, turning your morning commute into a flaming lap dance and an appearance on The World’s Wildest Police Chases.  Continue reading

Emotionally scarring your children is the Halloween ‘circle of life’

imageThough it’s been 15 years, I still remember my youngest son’s first Halloween costume. Because he was too young to walk, the choices were limited to things that could be carried under one arm and then planted on the doorstep. Eventually, I narrowed the options down to the following:

A pumpkin.
A legless pirate.
A meteor.

When considering the merits of each costume option and which elements should be incorporated into them, parents really have only one consideration:

“How do I get the most candy out of my child?”

To me, the sympathy factor for the legless pirate made it a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t overlook the power of cuteness — a quality that was missing from the legless pirate and meteor concepts. I eventually settled on “The Pumpkin, which I’m sad to say, fell short of my candy-yield expectations for that year.

To make matters worse, that was also the year my oldest daughter became an active member of Young Advocates for Keeping Kandy (YAKK).  Continue reading

Making a preemptive strike on our Opinion page

As the elections grow more tense the closer we get to November, the climate of unsubstantiated facts and accusatory rants is slowly spreading from the political stage to social media posts, lines at the supermarket, between pews at church and in the letters we’ve been receiving for our Opinion page at Siuslaw News. For today’s editorial, I felt the need to remind people about the the purpose of the Opinion page, why it’s so important to our democracy… And why, as editor, I have to protect it before it gets too out of hand.

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For the first time, I wasn’t chosen last!

imageWhen D.G. Kaye (aka the wonderful Debby Gies) asked me if I’d be the first in her new Friday authors and books series, it was just just like when Ricky Overbite chose me first for kickball, or Sarah Getlost asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance, or Mrs. Flunkem requested I say the Pledge of Alliegence in front of the classroom: I said, “Weeeellll, let me think about it.”

That’s usually when someone snapped their fingers in my face, breaking me out of my daydream to realize I was either the only one who hadn’t been picked for a team, was dancing with the janitor’s broom after the dance or had actually worn my pajamas to school just like in the nightmare.

So, needless to say, when Debby asked me to be her guest today to kick off her new Friday series, I said “OhHeckYes!”

If you aren’t familiar with Debby, you probably need to get out more. She’s the author of several books, a tireless supporter and inspirer of authors, and a gifted humor and memoir writer.

I’m very honored to be her debut guest and hope you’ll join me over at her place, where she asked me a lot of terrific questions that, in some cases, may have been even more interesting than my answers.

To hop over there, just click HERE! (No, not HERE. Back there where it says HERE)

 

Age is relative, especially for an all-beef patty

imageAs I mentioned, I turned 50 several weeks ago. The good news is I have a friend who just turned 60.

Relative to him, I’m a young man (Of which I will keep reminding him until that sad day when, unexpectedly, he knocks out my front teeth with his walker).

My point is, when it comes to age, what seems relative can quickly change.

Yesterday, for example, I was eating at a fast-food place when I noticed a pair of college-aged girls taking glances at me from another table. This has happened before, which is why I instinctively went through a series of mental checkpoints drawn from previous experience:

1) Is there condiment blowback in my hair, on my chin or around my nostril(s)?
2) What am I wearing today, and is there any part I forgot to snap closed, zip up or buckle down?
3) Did I unknowingly allow any part of my body’s internal gastro process to be heard externally?
4) Am I slouching, hunched or otherwise postured in a manner that makes it appear I’m protecting my $3.99 Value Meal, possibly to the death?

And lastly,
5) Is there someone much younger and better-looking sitting directly behind me?  Continue reading

This Just In! A weekly newspaper edition to my blog

NNW 16 2As National Newspaper Week continues (where have you BEEN?!?), I took the opportunity to write about some of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my 17 years here at our small-town newspaper as a columnist and journalist — and now as its editor.

Over the last several years I’ve heard many people comment how the newspaper industry is a dying institution thanks to the digital age and access to instant information. While it has certainly impacted the larger news formats, I have to disagree with their prognosis when it comes to the continued relevance of small-town papers. I believe they provide our communities with perspectives, information and a voice like no other resource. More than news pushes and canned feeds from automated sources, small-town newspapers offer the most true reflection of their readership and the commuities they serve.

Here’s why…  Continue reading